I know what it's like to be piled under projects, to have more commitments than time, and to get cold feet. It's overwhelming. It's frightening. It's crazy-busy, and you don't even have time to think about the commitments, and you don't really want to because they make you feel so entirely rotten.
I still have projects hanging over me that make me feel this way.
The number one thing to remember is that you can't outrun it. If you ignore that project, and don't respond to the emails and gentle prods, it doesn't magically go away. Instead of going away, you leave the people you've got hanging wondering what's up, unable to make alternate plans and move on... just dangling around in space wondering if they should write you off or not, worrying about you as a person, and unable to move on with or without you.
The people relying on you deserve more.
It doesn't matter if you can't hold up your promises. It doesn't matter if things have gone steeply downhill and you are floundering. It doesn't matter that you have dropped the ball. It feels like it matters, because it hurts your pride and stabs at your guilt, but it will be forgiven.
It will be forgiven.
We are all human, and busy humans at that.
You only have to do one thing. One thing that I hesitate to call easy, because I know how hard it can be...
Let them know.
You will feel better, the people depending on you won't worry or wonder. Management of projects can be rearranged. People will move on. Reparations can be made.
It's so much more important to be true to what's actually happening than to hide and pretend it's not.
Your friends will still love you if you back out of that project. Your peers will respect you more for being honest. Your clients will at least have closure if you cancel and refund their money. Would you rather people thought you had scammed them and lied to them?
Figure out your priorities. If the commitments you've made don't fit in, they don't fit in.
Backing out of commitments is harder than making them. It's easy to say yes. It's a hell of a lot harder to say 'I was wrong,' or 'I can't do this.' But take a moment and put yourself in the shoes of the people depending on you. Even if you can't make up your mind to quit or give up or back out, have the decency to let people know that you are having trouble.
You'd be surprised how willing to help and forgive and accept and give and compromise people can be.
All you have to do is ask for it.
Decidedly not aimed at any single person. Five or six or seven people, maybe. And a little to myself, too.